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Federal decision to shut down B.C. salmon farms prompts company court challenge

An Atlantic salmon is seen at a fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018. A British Columbia salmon farming company is seeking to challenge in court the federal government's decision not to renew the licences for its open-net Atlantic salmon farms off Vancouver Island.THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward

VANCOUVER — A British Columbia salmon farming company is going to court to challenge the federal government's decision not to renew the licences for its open-net farms off Vancouver Island.

Documents filed in Federal Court in Vancouver by Mowi Canada West apply for a judicial review of the decision last month by Fisheries Minister Joyce Murray to shut down 15 salmon farms.

Mowi's application seeks an order quashing or setting aside Murray's decision to shut down the company's 11 open-net salmon farms located off the Discovery Islands, near Campbell River.

It asks the court to have the matter referred back to Murray and a declaration the minister's February decision was "unreasonable, invalid and unlawful."

The federal government has not responded to the application, but as she announced the decision last month Murray said recent science indicates uncertainty over the risks fish farms pose to wild salmon and government was committed to transition away from the open-net farms. 

The farms off B.C.'s coast have been a major flashpoint with environmental groups and some Indigenous nations saying the farms are linked to disease that transfers to wild salmon, while the industry, local politicians and other First Nations say they are safe and the closures threaten thousands of jobs.

"Prior to the decision to eliminate aquaculture in the Discovery Islands region, Mowi had 645 employees in B.C., a significant number of whom were Indigenous," says the court application. "Since the minister's decision to prohibit aquaculture in the Discovery Islands, Mowi's workforce has been reduced to 312 employees."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 21, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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